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September 25, 2019

Privacy Tip of the Week: Use Secret Conversations in Facebook Messenger

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Facebook’s messaging app, Messenger, has more than one billion users worldwide, making it one of the most popular messaging services in the world. You can use the app to easily send text, photos, videos and more to people halfway around the globe. It also connects people to businesses and organizations.

However, Facebook is frequently in the news for breaches of privacy, an issue that affects users of both their social media and messaging platforms. That means the messages you send, intending for them to be private, might not be so private after all. Because of the app’s convenience, it’s difficult to choose between deleting it in favour of increased privacy, or continuing to use it and running the risk of a data breach. Knowing this, Facebook created a new solution, allowing users to start secret, encrypted chats. Here’s everything you need to know about secret conversations in Facebook Messenger and why you should always use them:

  • What makes secret conversations safer?
  • How do they compare to regular Messenger?
  • Why should you use secret conversations?
  • Are there any risks when using secret conversations?

What Makes Secret Conversations Safer?

Regular chats in Facebook’s messaging app are generally considered private between the people in that chat. However, while they may be private, they are not actually encrypted which means Facebook employees, government agencies, and hackers could potentially read what you’re sending. However, if you start a secret conversation in Messenger, all the messages are end-to-end encrypted between users. That means that no one except the people taking part in the conversation can see what you’re saying, including Facebook.

Furthermore, users can only read these chats on their originating devices. This limits the ways someone else could get ahold of the conversation. Secret conversations also have the option of setting an expiration date on your messages, meaning that after a certain period of time they will be deleted from the chat. While you should still avoid sending sensitive information through these chats (such as financial info, etc.), there are at least added securities for improved safety.

How do Secret Conversations Compare to Regular Facebook Messenger?

There are many similarities between the two types of chats. For example, both types allow you to send text, pictures, videos, and voice recordings. However, there are also several differences. Secret conversations only allow you to have one-on-one conversations instead of group chats. You also can’t send payments through secret conversations. This type of messaging is also only available on the mobile app, not Facebook’s desktop messenger. Regular messages, on the other hand, don’t offer message expiration settings and are, of course, not encrypted.

Why Should You Use Secret Conversations?

Facebook Messenger is a great app but it certainly has its drawbacks, the biggest of which is privacy. By not encrypting regular messages, those messages may be visible to parties not directly involved in the conversation. Facebook can look at the messages to collect data about you, then sell it to third parties. Governmental bodies may also request that information. By not using encryption, you also run the risk of hackers seeing your messages. Secret conversations in Facebook Messenger eliminate the risk of others being able to see your messages.

Are There Risks When Using Secret Conversations?

While secret conversations are a better alternative to regular Messenger, there are still a few security flaws that all users should be aware of. First, they are not the default Messenger setting, so always remember to turn it on before every conversation you want to be secret. Second, secret conversations do not disable screenshots. Either of the parties involved in a chat can take pictures of the conversation, thus storing information from it even after the chat has been deleted. Finally, if you want to send a secret message to someone you are not friends with on Facebook, that message may either be sent to “message requests” or “filtered messages,” and will remain there until the other party reads them, which may take some time.

For those wanting the convenience of Facebook Messenger but with added privacy, secret conversations are a great middle-ground solution.

To protect yourself further, considering also using HotBot VPN when sending messages online.

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